Culture And Media

Italy: Berlusconi to sue left-wing daily for over €1 mln

Rome, 28 August (AKI) - Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is suing the left-wing daily La Repubblica for one million euros plus unspecified damages for posing questions about his relationship with teenage model Noemi Letizia and other aspects of his private life.

Berlusconi claims the 10 questions the newspaper published in an article on 26 June are "highly slanderous" and "rhetorical", his lawyers said.

"The damage done to Mr Berlusconi is massive, due to his high public profile and the extensive readership of La Repubblica," they stated.

The premier this week also began libel proceedings against La Repubblica over a second article it published on 6 August about negative international press coverage of him entitled "Berlusconi can be blackmailed now - foreign media still on the attack".

Berlusconi has never answered the list of questions which the paper demanded him to answer in the public interest over his relationship with Letizia.

He attended Letizia's 18th birthday party in Naples, she calls him 'Daddy' and has said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he called her.

La Repubblica has frequently re-published its 10 questions for Berlusconi, which demand him to reveal how he met Letizia and where, why he has contradicted himself repeatedly and whether he has frequented other minors.

But the questions also asked him to justify selecting numerous showgirls as candidates for his conservative People of Freedom party, and asked if he was really unaware that 42-year-old escort Patrizia D'Addario who says she slept with him last November and dozens of others he allegedly entertained were prostitutes.

He is said to be especially outraged by an article published by French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur cited in La Repubblica's 6 August article.

The French article alludes to the existence of a tape that allegedly implicates Italy's equal opportunities minister and former showgirl Mara Carfagna and education minister Mariastella Gelmini on Berlusconi's sexual antics.

In an exclusive interview earlier this month with the weekly magazine, Chi, Berlusconi denied allegations of sexual misconduct saying he never had "relations with minors" and only attended parties and dinners that were morally acceptable. Chi is published by his own media conglomerate.

Letizia claims to be a virgin and alleges her relationship with Berlusconi is platonic.

But D'Addario has supplied prosecutors with audiotapes and photos which she says prove her claims that Berlusconi slept with her.

La Repubblica and its sister weekly L'Espresso in July published a series of excerpts from the audioptapes and transcripts on their websites.

Spanish daily El Pais in June published several compromising photos taken by Sardinian paparazzi Antonello Zappadu at Berlusconi's Costa Smeralda villa.

They included topless young women and a nude man, believed to be former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, cavorting poolside.




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